Fixing Christian Radio: Part Deux

Fixing Christian Radio Allright, so a few days ago I posted a blog about an idea I had to fix "Christian Radio." You can read the blog in it's entirety here, but the gist of it is that I propose we separate music made by Christians into two general purposes: one station plays solely music written and designed for corporate worship, while another station plays solely music written by Christian artists "not" designed for corporate worship.

I received quite a bit of interesting feedback, and so I thought it merited some followup thoughts on my part. Here are 2 primary reasons, in more detail, WHY I wish Christian Radio would separate their music.

REASON # 1: Works Against Proper Understanding of Worship

I'll use some excerpts from people's responses to get started:

Brian writes: "I don't see how Christian music can be separate from worship, though. What's the point?? If as a Christian you are not bringing worship 100% there is no point, whether you are a worship leader or a "Christian artist"

You bring up a good point, here Brian, and on one level I agree with you. But I think Logan is correct when he offered this:

I believe that when Colby is talking about "worship" he is being very specific to what would be considered "corporate worship," or actual music that you would find in a church being sung by a congregation.

In my original post, I was trying to make that distinction, and when using the term "worship music," was doing so in the context of music specifically designed for use in a corporate worship environment. The word "worship" is so multi-faceted and has so many dimensions and layers to it, that it really does require a note about how the author is using it. Most certainly, one way to talk about worship is like what cnhutch wrote:

It's true that all music, indeed all of life, is worship. When we understand that worship is a bowing down or submitting oneself in attitude and in action toward another, then it's true that everything we do in life as believers should have this bent.

So this would be where I agree with your overall sentiment, Brian, that all Christian music could effectively be labeled as "worship" music. It might be

  • a) written as an act of worship by the author
  • b) listened to as an tool for worship by the listener
  • c) sung as a demonstration of worship by an individual and/or congregation

In this sense, you could use a very broad definition of 'worship' and apply most (hopefully all) music written by Christians as worship itself (the product) or able to assist in worship (as a performance).

But I think you can, (and as I argue, maybe "should") separate the music as best as you can. This is one thing that bothers me now about going to a Christian Rock concert where there is a section of "corporate worship" stuck right in the middle of the rock show (which is the inverse of what bothers Janice:

There is a time and place for special music, but not smack dab in the middle of deep and meaningful vertical worship (I, Colby, might agree with this as a general principle, but I do believe that if well chosen and well executed, you can have a very meaningful, powerful, and impacting moment of worship with a special music stuck "smack dab" in the middle)

Back in the day, I used to love going to Third Day shows for this very reason; fantastic "corporate worship" time in the middle of the show. But now, I think I take issue with it. I don't think we are training people well to separate these two moments, these two realities.

Third Day Concert - Entertainment? Worship? Both?

One says, "come, be entertained... observe but don't participate... watch and enjoy." The other says, "come, be engaged... enter in and participate... join the hosts of heaven and earth." Is it possible that we are, indirectly, cutting off the branch we sit upon by blending these two realities so closely? Are we just to assume that people are able to cognitively flip off the "observe" switch and enter in to "participation?" Is there too much in common between these two that it makes it hard to distinguish one from the other? This same distortion of distinctions between these two realities is happening on Christian Radio, and that's a big part of why I wish they could be separated.

It's not unlike a principle my wife and I share in our house with our kids. We try and teach them that some words are okay for grown-ups but NOT for kids. And if certain words find there way into a general conversation, we pause and remind our kids that these are "grow-up" words, not suitable or acceptable for their vocabulary. It would be unfair for us to expect them to know the difference and separate the two if we didn't teach them about the differences. How could we hold them to a certain standard if they didn't know where the boundaries were?

In the same way, maybe Christian Artists need to take more responsibility to understand their influence on people, and "teach" them in their concerts that they're shifting gears from performance to corporate worship. Maybe the DJ's on the radio could assume the same responsibility?

REASON #2: Waters Down Good Christian Music

Okay, I get that this is totally subjective, and I'm not asking you to completely agree with me, but I DO think that mixing "songs made for corporate worship" and "songs made for general enjoyment" are crafted differently. And a lot of people's critique that "Christian music" is lame comes from a set of expectations and standards that "songs made for corporate worship" are never intended to meet. But again, throwing them all together on the radio makes it impossible to separate this.

I'm not saying that "songs written for worship" are NEVER creative, unique, or good art. But I may offer that "most" songs of this nature are not written with those goals necessarily in mind. There is a LOT of really good music being made by Christian artists out there (most of it you can't find on the radio, but that's a different story) that I believe could really turn a person from a place of, "man, Christian music is lame" to a place of, "wow, I didn't know there was GOOD music in the Christian industry!"

So if there was a designated station where songs of this nature could be played, and not be "watered-down" in a sense by songs written for a different purpose, I think the Christian Music Industry would get a lot more respect and credibility from the outside world, and they might actually give it a listen!

What do you think? Have you ever found yourself with mixed feelings about corporate worship? (is this "entertainment" or "engagement?" Do I "observe" or "participate?") Do those lines get blurred sometimes at church? Have you been to a concert where this has happened, and how did you feel? Have you ever made the comment, "Christian music is lame," or something similar? Why do you think that is?

I welcome your responses and thoughts...